ACHS Board of Directors

ACHS’s Board of Directors is responsible for establishing policies to ensure the quality, integrity, and effectiveness of student learning programs and services and the financial stability of the institution. Once the Board reaches a decision, it acts as a whole.

ACHS’s Board of Directors:

  • Establishes policies consistent with the mission statement to ensure the quality, integrity, and improvement of student learning programs and services and the resources necessary to support them. The Board has ultimate responsibility for educational quality, legal matters, and financial integrity.
  • Reviews the Board’s bylaws and policies specifying the Board’s size, duties, responsibilities, structure, and operating procedures. The Board regularly evaluates its policies and practices and revises them as necessary. The Board acts in a manner consistent with its policies and bylaws.
  • Reviews Board development and new member orientation.
  • Conducts self-evaluation processes to assess Board performance.
  • Abides by the code of ethics.
  • Is informed about and involved in the accreditation process.

Learn more about our prestigious Board of Directors:

Dorene Petersen

Dorene Petersen, BA, Dip.NT, Dip.Acu, RH (AHG), Founding President

American College of Healthcare Sciences, was founded in 1978 by Dorene Petersen, in New Zealand, and later she opened additional branches in Australia and Hong Kong. Today, though, ACHS is housed entirely on the U.S. campus located in Portland, Oregon.

In May 2009 the College officially changed its name from the Australasian College of Health Sciences to the American College of Healthcare Sciences. The name change celebrates the College's 20th anniversary of operations in the United States and better represents the College's long-term goals as an Institute of Higher Learning in the U.S.

Founding President Dorene Petersen holds a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology from Otago University, New Zealand, a Diploma in Natural Therapeutics from the South Pacific College of Natural Therapies in Auckland, New Zealand, and is a certified acupuncturist with specialized training in Chinese herbal medicine and moxibustion. She has also completed part one of the Advanced International Training Program in essential oils at Purdue University.

In addition to her work with the College, Dorene teaches courses for ACHS and leads the annual ACHS Summer School study-abroad programs to Greece, which explore holistic health, Mediterranean nutrition, therapeutic aromatherapy and distillation, among other topics. She is an eCollege certified online instructor and is a faculty member meeting the qualifications prescribed by the Oregon Office of Degree authorization. She stays abreast of current methodologies through various trainings with the Distance Education Training Council and by attending annual conferences about online learning, educational technology and instructional design. Dorene regularly lectures about medical herbalism, aromatherapy, iridology, and natural body care, including appearances at: The South Pacific College of Natural Therapies (NZ), the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM), the Aesthetics Institute, the Birthingway School of Midwifery, and Western States University, all in Portland Oregon.

In addition, Dorene has appeared on various TV and radio shows, including Good Morning Oregon, the National Radio Show Voice of America, and KPTV Better Portland, and has presented papers at: The Herb Growers and Marketers Conference in Hyannis, Massachusetts; at the International Scientific Aromatherapy Symposium in Grasse, France; and at the International Herb Association Conference in Portland, Oregon. Her articles about aromatherapy have appeared in publications worldwide, including: Alternative Therapies in Clinical Practice, The News Quarterly, Making Scents, The Herbarist, the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal, Massage Magazine, the Aromatherapy Registration Council newsletter, and on

Dorene currently serves as Chair of the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC), an independent, nonprofit organization that administers the national examination in aromatherapy to ensure minimum standards of training and safety knowledge of registered aromatherapists. Petersen is also a professional member of the American Herbalists Guild. In 2009, Dorene was awarded the Professional Service Award from the International Herb Association for her outstanding contributions to the herb industry.

Dorene is active with the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC, formerly DETC), and chaired the DETC annual meeting and conference in Seattle in 2006. She is also a member of the Research and Educational Standards Subcommittee of the DEAC.

Erika Yigzaw

Erika Yigzaw, B.Com, LL.B. (Hons), President

Erika Yigzaw is President of ACHS. She focuses on the coordination and delivery of the highest-quality online classes and overseeing implementation of ACHS’s compliance and outcomes assessment programs. 

Erika holds a Bachelors Degree (B.Com) in Commerce (Economics major) from the University of Otago; an LL.B. (first professional law degree) from the University of Otago Law School; and has completed the Master Gardener program through Oregon State University.

Before joining ACHS USA in 1997, Erika spent three years practicing corporate commercial law as a Barrister and Solicitor with one of New Zealand’s largest commercial law firms, Bell Gully Buddle Weir, in the Wellington then Auckland offices. She advised several multinational dietary supplement companies as well as being involved with mergers and acquisitions and intellectual property issues. She also has research experience from the University of Otago Law Library, where she worked during law school, and as a researcher at stockbroking firm Buddle Wilson.

Erika has been an advisor to the Aromatherapy Registration Council since its inception in 1997 and was volunteer webmaster for that non-profit group for 12 years. She has been a speaker at International Herb Association (IHA) and Herb Growers and Marketers Network (HGMN) conferences on legal issues in the natural health industry, on Outcomes Assessment at the 2006 fall workshop of the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC, formerly DETC), and on distance learning technology at the 2010 Annual Conference and Meeting of the DEAC. She has been active on many DEAC task forces, including outcomes assessment and technology, and has been an active member of the DEAC Business Standards Committee since 2008. She is a DEAC Education and Business Standards Evaluator and Chair, and has served on more than 10 site visits for initial and re-accreditation for the DEAC. In 2012 she received the DEAC Distinguished Recognition Award for her work in advancing the field of distance education.

Erika has a variety of experiences in distance education methodology and administration including as a student: taking programs by distance learning in Spanish through New Zealand Correspondence Schools and eCommerce through Portland Community College. She stays abreast of current methodologies through various conferences and courses with the DEAC and by regularly attending conferences on online learning, including the CITE conference.

In addition to her professional training and experience, Erika has been involved with ACHS since it was founded in New Zealand. She worked part time for ACHS through school and College and has been with ACHS in the USA full time since 1997.

Erika completed the Master Gardener program through Oregon State University in 2008. She volunteers throughout the Portland area as a Master Gardener and is an advocate of sustainable living and green practices in both her personal and professional life. In her spare time, Erika and her family run a lavender farm in Sherwood, Oregon, where they also keep chickens, bees, horses, cats, dogs, fish, and occasionally fostered alpacas, llamas, and goats.

Debbie Parigian

Debbie Parigian, B.A., CPA, Public Member

Debbie Parigian has several years' experience working as a part-time CFO for growing companies and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the College.

Debbie has worked with several educational companies and software development companies over the past 20 years, increasing their financial strength to assist with growth strategies. She holds a bachelor's degree in business and accounting and is a Certified Public Accountant. Debbie also has served as a board member, founder, investor, and consultant with several emerging growth companies.

"I have had a lifelong involvement with health and wellness," says Parigian. "My experience-health and financial-will allow me to successfully help ACHS ensure strong, sustainable growth and development of the cutting-edge online classroom education our students have come to rely on."

Clyde Jensen

Clyde B. Jensen, Ph.D., Public Member

Dr. Clyde B. Jensen is distinguished as the only person to have served as a leader and professor (physiology and pharmacology) in colleges of allopathic medicine, osteopathic medicine, naturopathic medicine, oriental medicine, and chiropractic. He has coined the phrase "continuum cleft" to describe the gap that separates conventional and complementary health care and published concerning the financial and qualitative costs of the cleft to American health care consumers. Dr. Jensen has acknowledged that it is his personal mission to help "mend the cleft" by fostering collaboration among health care professions and their educational institutions.

Judy Starr

Judy Starr, VP of External Relations

Judy has nearly 25 years experience working with nonprofit organizations and brings her expertise in all aspects of marketing, communications and development to ACHS's Board of Directors.

She has raised millions of dollars during her career through her work with major gift donors, foundation grant writing and corporate relations. Additionally, she established the first alumni relations program at Oregon College of Oriental Medicine and currently works closely with the Director of Alumni Relations at Clark College Foundation.

Judy’s Public Relations Certification from Marylhurst University and education in communications, event planning and grant writing has allowed her to combine these skills to bring community goodwill and positive visibility to the nonprofit organizations she represents as well as those who support them.

“I have served as a board member for Willamette Valley Development Officers, Public Relations Society of Oregon. As an ACHS board member I will help ensure strong sustainable growth and success for the College and its students.”